26 October 2016
Citibank Tower (second from left) houses the Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Center. Photo: Bloomberg
Citibank Tower (second from left) houses the Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Center. Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong opens VIP cancer care center

A cancer-care center has opened at Citibank Tower, a 50-floor skyscraper in Hong Kong’s Central business district.

Equipped with biopsy facilities, body scanners, and quiet “VIP” chemotherapy rooms, it is the first of a string of such facilities that TE Asia Healthcare Partners, a portfolio company funded by private-equity giant TPG, is planning in Asia, Bloomberg News reports.

TPG, which manages more than US$74 billion globally, is now setting its sights on the business of cancer care in Asia.

The World Health Organization estimates the Asia-Pacific region has more than six million new cancer cases a year.

TPG funded TE in 2014 to build a portfolio of specialty clinics and hospitals.

The private-equity firm’s interest reflects a growing consensus among global investors: there’s money to be made off high-end health care in the region.

“We’re looking at diseases where there’s high demand for treatment and can be addressed outside the general hospital setting, and oncology is certainly one of these,” said TE’s chief executive Eng Aik Meng.

Down the line, “when doctors think about who they want to partner with in the private sector, I want us to be on the top of their mind”, Eng said.

He declined to say how much money TPG was putting into the venture.

The private-equity firm normally invests in existing businesses rather than building them up from scratch.

But because there weren’t many specialty centers to buy in the region, TE was created as a platform to build such facilities, Eng said.

It took a while to find a space to locate its first project, the Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Center, as the building had to be able to withstand the heavy weight of the scanning machines.

The firm even broke open the windows of Citibank Tower one night to transport some of the MRI machines into the building, according to medical director Ronnie Poon.

The out-patient center in Central opened its doors in July this year.

The 26,000 square foot, two-storey facility dedicates one floor to imaging and scanning equipment that patients from other oncologists can also use.

While retaining majority control for its centers, TE plans to partner with other top doctors in Asia to build private facilities.

TE is targeting another two cancer facilities next year and another 10 in the region — with a focus on Southeast Asia — by the end of 2017, Eng said.

It also plans to open a cardiovascular hospital in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2016.

The Hong Kong center promises patients a detailed analysis of their disease and a treatment plan within three days of walking through its doors.

By comparison, waiting times for patients at private and public hospitals locally could range from three weeks to three months because they have fewer scanning machines and there may be days of waiting between different tests.

Hong Kong is also an easier spot for people from mainland China to travel to compared with the United States, especially if gravely ill.

The facility has treated more than 150 patients, half of whom came from the mainland to seek care unavailable back home, Poon said.

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